Wednesday 17 November 2021

Ren Harvieu - Boileroom, Guildford - November 16th, 2021

As the winter nights drew in, I found myself wanting a bit more entertainment

After a highly enjoyable evening at The Boileroom with Goan Dogs and their support, I scanned the upcoming dates there again and spotted Ren Harvieu was playing on the 16th November.

As is often the way, the name meant nothing to me, but a quick Google revealed a woman with an impressively good voice, so I booked a ticket.

I was more than a little miffed to find Guildford council had changed the parking to mean I was £4 out of pocket just to park, but I decided I'd ty not to let that spoil the evening.

There was virtually no-one in the Boileroom when I arrived and the tall man in the stripey trousers turned out (not unexpectedly) to be one of the support acts!

There were two billed support acts, but both actually turned out to be members of Ren Harvieu's band.

The first, Felix Holt, sat at the side of the stage at what could well have been a Hammond Organ, which seemed to intermittently play one note and then be changed a bit later to another. I'm pretty sure his whole set consisted of just two songs, the first, a dirge sang in a Bob Dylan style and lasting at least 10 minutes. The second was marginally more tuneful and melodic, but he defintely wasn't the best support act I've seen this year!

Next up was the lanky, stripey trouser clad singer, Robert Chaney, who was more conventional and definitely more enjoyable, playing a guitar and singing. Again, as a solo act, he wasn't great, but I'd been a bit spoilt by the Goan Dogs' support acts - He wasn't terrible.

At around 9PM, Felix and Robert, a cap wearing woman, a man it what looked like a terrible grey wig (I really hope it was a wig!) and two familiar looking people took the stage, followed shortly by Ren herself.

The familiar pair were Romeo and Michelle Stodart from The Magic Numbers - Not a band I'm a particular fan of, but I was aware of them and recognised them. Indeed I'm pretty sure Michelle supported Ben Watt when I saw him at the Boileroom, but looking back I didn't mention who the support was. I do recall, though, that she was pretty good and I was impressed to see Ren had got them onboard (It turned out that Romeo was, to a great extent, involved in her return to recording and touring, so he deserves thanks for that!)

Sadly, the venue was still poorly attended with less than 50 people present.

While it must have been disappointing for Ren and her band, they didn't let it show, putting on a quirky, entertaining show which was a mix of tracks from her latest album ('Revel In The Drama' - Self described as her 'second debut album') and her successful first album ('Through The Night').

The band were great, with particular credit going to the be-hatted woman who put in a virtuso display playing keyboards, violin and even a saw at one point and harmonising brilliantly with Ren on some songs.

However, the undeniable highlight was Ren's voice.

Why she isn't a huge superstar is difficult to understand to me. Her voice is so flexible, strong and clear, never jarring but capable of a great range. As she explained the history of 'Salford Superstar', she joked about children who sprang from the womb trained by Maria Carey, but her voice, while beautiful and wide ranging, never strays into the gimmicky histrionics of MC (a singer who always sounds like a cat in a tumble dryer to me...).

They kicked off with 'Teenage Mascara','Strange Things' and 'This Is How You Make Me Feel' from the new album, followed by a song called 'Soft' (a great song, but not listed on either album) and then 'Through The Night' and 'Do Right By Me', singles from the debut album.

'Is It Love','Dramatic Nonchalance' and 'Salford Superstar' don't appear on either album, but were highly enjoyable, while 'Yes Please', 'Curves and Swerves' (combined with 'A Wow and A Whizz' in what Ren described as a 'megamix') and 'Open Up Your Arms' were taken from the two albums.

Oddly the finale 'The Wonder Of It All', featuring the saw playing, felt a bit of an anti-climax and, sadly, there was no encore (in my experience, it's a rare thing at the Boileroom).

Personally, I'd have loved to hear her cover of 'Something', which is on YouTube, live as an encore.

Between tracks she chatted and seemed a very personable woman. Her long hiatus was, at least partly, due to a spine breaking accident between the recording and release of her first accident, and she talked about that (a little) and how she came to singing as a child.

A couple of times Ren observed that we were a small audience (hardly our fault), but that she hoped to see us again next year with the release of another album.

I really hope she does come back and that a bigger audience are drawn to her music.

If Ren Harvieu returns, I'll be there - I have to say, she probably has the most wonderful voice I've heard live.

Teenage Mascara
Strange Things
This Is How You Make Me Feel
Through The Night
Do Right By Me
Is It Love
Dramatic Nonchalance
Yes Please
Salford Superstar
Curves and Swerves
A Wow and A Whizz
Open Up Your Arms
The Wonder Of It All

PS Apologies for the terrible photos - I got a different camera and now realise I had it set on the lowest setting!

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